Coconut Oil for Skin? Experts Break Down Everything You Need to Know

Using coconut oil for your skin may not be the first, second, or even 10th thing to come to mind when wanting to combat dryness. But as it turns out, it might be time to strongly consider it.

Coconut oil is known for its many health benefits and as a natural emollient, it is also packed with nourishing ingredients that can be just as effective—if not better than—as some of your favorite skincare products. (And the fact that it is easy to find and can be pretty wallet-friendly doesn’t hurt either). Don’t just take our word for it, though. Below, see what the experts had to say about why you should consider coconut oil for your skin and how to properly incorporate it into your routine. Dry skin be damned.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil comes from coconut meat, which is the white part you see when you cut into one. Studies show that this natural oil is made up mostly of fatty acids, like lauric acid, myristic acid, and linoleic acid, and provides a lot of benefits when used in cooking or our hair care and skincare regimens.

Where our skin is concerned, it’s main benefit is that it can act as a natural moisturizer. But it can also do so much more. Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor and director of cosmetic and clinical research of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, says that it is useful in treating the skin in many ways, but can mostly be used as a moisturizer, cleanser, and treatment for inflammatory conditions.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is useful in so many ways, but, according to the experts, it has five main skin benefits:

Provides and Locks in Moisture

One of the main reasons to use coconut oil for your skin is to add moisture. Hadley King, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, says that it makes an excellent moisturizer because it is rich in fatty acids called triglycerides, and has emollient properties to soothe dry skin and act as an occlusive to lock in moisture. Zeichner adds that because coconut oil is rich in fatty acids, it can help hydrate and soften the skin.

Dissolves Makeup

Zeichner says that coconut oil can safely be used as a makeup remover, even around the eyes. “Oil dissolves oil, so it can bind to makeup allowing it to be removed from the skin,” he says. You simply need to gently rub it into your skin, like you would an oil cleanser, before washing it off. So consider this for the next time you need to cleanse off hard-to-remove liner or mascara.

Fights off Bacteria

King goes on to say that coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which contains antifungal and antibacterial properties. Zeichner adds that lauric acid is also thought to be antimicrobial, so it may lower levels of acne-causing bacteria on the skin and help reduce inflammation.

While there are some claims that coconut oil can treat dandruff as it has antimicrobial properties and the lauric acid can lower levels of yeast known to drive dandruff, Zeichner says its effectiveness is still unclear when it comes to treatment.

Protects and Boosts Skin Barrier Function

Coconut oil is also rich in antioxidant properties, which can help protect the skin from environmental aggressors. “It can help neutralize and prevent damage from free radicals from UV rays and pollution,” says King. This also helps the skin fight off premature fine lines and other signs of aging.

Supplements Essential Oils

Zeichner says that coconut oil is commonly used as a carrier oil for essential oils. Essential oils need to be diluted before being applied to the skin and he says adding coconut oil will help protect the skin while reaping all the benefits from whatever essential oil you want to use.

The Side Effects

King says that coconut oil is fairly comedogenic, so it can clog pores and cause breakouts. Those with sensitive skin, oily skin, or acne-prone skin should proceed with caution if they want to incorporate it into their regimen. She adds that coconuts are also considered tree nuts and may cause a rash or other types of allergic reaction for those allergic to anything nut-related.

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